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Cavaliers 30-Game Recap

Chad W. Lutz
It’s Game 6 of the NBA Finals. The game is on the line. There’s only a few seconds left on the clock. Both teams have been pushed to exhaustion. Sweat drips from small forwards and fanatics alike. The players await the inbound pass, the one that decides the fate of the game. The trailing team holds possession and gives the ball to their swingman. He spots up for three. The ball is up, arching high and triumphant against the backdrop of dropped jaws and clenched fists. Thoughts and resolves are wavering. Was there hesitation in the shooter’s release? Was he too contested? In a second none of that will matter. Because as the balls splashes through the hoop and the visiting team overcomes the odds and hangs on for the victory with mere fractions of a second left on the clock, it looks as if they planned for this type of dramatic finish all along. And that’s how you become a contender: practice for preparation in all situations.

Well, part of basketball is closing out games. In fact, it’s probably one of the most important parts of playing basketball professionally. The Cavaliers, however, do not resemble the team in the opening paragraph. So far this season, the Cavs have more often resembled (and embodied) the team that slinks off the court on the losing end of a hard effort. Through 30 games, the storyline has been overtime. While sometimes playing the extra period helps in securing a victory and capping impossible runs, it has not been beneficial to the Cavaliers in 2013.

Last night's loss to the Golden State Warriors in overtime represents the eighth time the Cavaliers have lost a game after being up or within three heading into the final period. As the second-youngest squad in the NBA, one should expect to see some nerves fly and play to falter a bit down the homestretch, but what the Cleveland Cavaliers are doing this season redefines unnerving. It’s almost like watching the Cleveland Browns play.
It's been a frustrating season thus far. (www.halestormsports.com)
On Saturday, Cleveland fought back from being down 22 points late in the third quarter against Boston to bring it within one in the final minute. Tonight, Cleveland squelched a 17-point lead held late in the first half to lose to Golden State by four in overtime. A similar situation occurred against Portland on December 19, in which the Cavs lead for most of the game and lost at the buzzer on a Damian Lillard three, and again against Atlanta on December 27 when Jeff Teague sunk a runner as time expired to steal one from the Cavs at home. The worst part of all of these losses, and what makes them the hardest to swallow, is they were all completely winnable games. What have continuously killed the Cavs down the stretch are turnovers.

Last night against the Warriors, Dion Waiters, on several occasions, coughed up the basketball driving flagrantly to the hoop. Even on a night where the Warriors committed six offensive fouls and posted 9 first-half turnovers, the Cavaliers were unable to take care of the basketball and close out down the stretch. The only way the Cavaliers can hope to salvage the season and keep from playing .300 ball is to figure out a way to hold off teams and establish both offensive and defensive presences and maintain efforts for 48 consecutive minutes. The Wine and Gold appear to be playing up to their opponents and then acting like they forget the paddle and are about to go over the falls when the game is on the line. The shots are falling; the defense is congealing, but the turnovers, the seriously untimely turnovers, continue to plague the Cavaliers. Cleveland averages 15.5 turnovers per game, with our main ball handlers, Waiters and Kyrie Irving, turning the ball over 2.68 and 3.00 times per game, respectively (cringes). Turnovers like those against Portland and Golden State will continue to result in undesirable notches in the Win/Loss columns unless all 14 players on roster can figure out a way to close out when it matters most.
Also adding to the frustration is the development of the Andrew Bynum saga. Or, I should say, Andrew Bynum’s naga play here anymore. After being indefinitely suspended by the team just hours before Saturday’s game against Boston for “conduct detrimental to the team”, Cleveland now has to reshape its offensive and defensive systems. What’s a lucky break, if there is one in this situation, is that Andrew Bynum never played enough to really be missed offensively or defensively. He only averaged 20 minutes a game, and while he started to show flashes of his old self as November tuned December, shoddy performances like that of 0-11 against Detroit December 23 and 3-14 against Milwaukee three night’s before lead to an early benching again Atlanta for the Cavalier’s big man in the third quarter of the double overtime loss. The fate of Bynum in a Cavs uniform now rests in the hands of the Wine and Gold front office.
The Cavaliers have reportedly thrown in the towel on the melancholy center and suspended the 26-year old Bynum indefinitely for detrimental conduct. (www.nba.si.com)
Either, any, and all ways, the Cavs play so far this season should remind us all just how hard it is to get a nucleus of players, in any sport, to congeal. Thinking back on the last three and a third seasons, I realize just how good we had it for five of the seven years during the Lebron era. The Cavs are still on pace to improve their season record over last year, and there is certainly a lot of basketball to still be played, especially considering how God-awful the Eastern Conference has played out thus far. But I’m beginning to think it’s going to take a miracle for the Cavs to grab the eighth seed this season, let alone win more than 23 games. And this isn’t Richfield.

Next 10 games:
12/31 @ Indiana
1/2 vs. Orlando
1/4 @ Brooklyn
1/5 vs. Indiana
1/7 vs. Philadelphia
1/10 @ Utah
1/12 @ Sacramento
1/14 @ LA Lakers
1/17 @ Denver
1/20 vs. Dallas